Button Gwinnett, Signer of the Declaration of Independence

BUTTON GWINNETT was born at Down Hatherly, Gloucestershire, England in 1735. His father was a Welsh Clergyman. He came from a respectable family. Although they were of modest means, thy afforded him an excellent education. Gwinnett moved to Bristol, and became a merchant. At 22, he married and emigrated to Charleston, South Carolina in the early 1760's, living there for two years before moving to Savannah, Georgia. In 1765 he established himself as a general trader. In 1770, he sold all of his merchandise and purchased a large tract of land in on St. Catherine's Island, Georgia, where he devoted entirely to his plantation.

Prior to 1775, Gwinnett did not take an active part in politics. However, his subsequent enthusiasm for maintaining colonial rights attracted the attention of his fellow citizens. At the meeting of the provincial assembly held in Savannah on January 20, 1776, he was appointed as a representative in congress and he voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence. In February 1777, he was appointed a member of the Georgia state government and is said to have furnished the basis of the constitution that was later adopted. After the death of the president of the provincial council, a Mr. Bullock, Gwinnett was appointed to fill the vacant office on March 4, 1777. In May 1777, he was an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Georgia. During the Revolutionary War Gwinnett's property was totally destroyed by the British. At the time that he represented Georgia in Congress, Gwinnett became a candidate for the office of brigadier general of the continental brigade about to be assembled in Georgia. His opponent for the office was Colonel Lackland M'Intosh. M'Intosh was appointed and Gwinnett, being unnaturally disappointed and short of temper, was so embittered that he regarded M'Intosh as a personal enemy from that day on.

Gwinnett became president of the Executive Council, and he adopted several measures that were able to mortify his adversary, General M'Intosh. One of these was the appropriation of great power by the Executive Council over the continental army in Georgia. General M'Intosh was consequently treated with disrespect by some of his officers and soldiers. To humble his adversary still further, Gwinnett projected a expedition against East Florida giving the command of the continental troops and the Georgia Militia to himself, excluding General M'Intosh from even the command of his own brigade. Gwinnett's office, as president of the council, prevented him from proceeding at the head of the expedition. The troops where by Gwinnett's orders placed under the command of a subordinate officer of M'Intosh's brigade. The expedition nearly failed and probably contributed to the failure of Gwinnett's election to the office of Governor in May 1777.

The loss of the election to Governor blasted Gwinnett's hopes and brought his political career to an end. General M'Intosh foolishly celebrated the disappointment and mortification of his adversary. The animosity between these two distinguished gentlemen continued to gather strength from this time on. Finally, Gwinnett, unmindful of the high offices that he had held and of his obligations to society, challenged M'Intosh to a duel, which was fought on May 15, 1777. They fought at a distance of only twelve feet and both were severely wounded. Gwinnett's wound proved mortal and on May 27, 1777, at forty-five years of age he died a victim to false ambition and a false sense of honor.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.